Every year, hours-of-service questions from drivers and carriers make up the vast majority of inquiries concerning the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. This year, concerns dealt with three main topic areas: electronic logging devices, 30-minute rest breaks, and restarts.

In this article, the final of a three-part series, we'll look at the restart provisions.

The restart provisions that were imposed on July 1, 2013, remain the most maligned of all FMCSA regulations. And they still cause a good bit of confusion, such as:

Question: My driver has to work this weekend, but I need her on Monday; she won’t get her restart. What can we do?

Answer: Drivers are never required to “take a restart.” Before the restart provision was created, drivers needed to track their carry hours (hours remaining) on their 60 or 70 and plan their week accordingly. This process of determining hours available can still be done today. A log summary sheet can be used to decide whether to make use of a restart or not.

Question: Is the 34 hours included in the 168 hours?

Answer: The 168 hours counts the first qualifying restart period, but not the following. The “clock” measures the time elapsed from the beginning of one qualifying restart period to the beginning of the next. Section 395.3(d) states it this way: “…until 168 or more consecutive hours have passed since the beginning of the last such off-duty period.”

Question: I worked last Saturday until 1 p.m. Due to the 168-hour rule, I know I have to wait until 1 p.m. this Saturday to start my next restart. But I need to head out at 4 a.m. Monday morning. I’ll be done working this week Friday night by 6 p.m. Can I use Saturday’s 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. and Sunday’s 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. as my two overnight periods?

Answer: No. A qualifying restart period must include both 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods inside of it, and the restart period cannot begin before 168 hours from the beginning of the previous restart. So even though the driver will be off duty for 58 hours, with two full overnights, the first 19 hours off duty and the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. period within it do not count toward the restart because of the 168-hour provision.

As was noted, the driver could not begin a restart period until 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon, and would be off duty until 4 a.m. Monday morning. However, this period does not include the two required overnight periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. In this example, the driver would need to be off duty until at least 5 a.m. Monday to meet all of the restart provisions.

To put it simply, a restart needs three “true” statements:

  1. Are there 168 hours from the beginning of one restart to the beginning of the next?
  2. If there are, counting from the end of the 168-hour period, is there at least 34 hours off duty?
  3. If true, does the period after the 168 hours include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. off-duty periods?

If all three are true, a restart period exists. Otherwise, there is no restart.

The FMCSRs are several hundred pages long. Why does one Part (395, Hours-of-Service), generate so many more questions than the others? Likely it is because violations of the hours-of-service rules account for nearly 50 percent of all driver violations found during roadside inspections. They remain a pain point for many carriers.

View Part 2 on the 30-minute break requirement

View Part 1 on electronic logging devices.